CLEMSON — The Clemson defense was gashed nearly a month ago by the South Carolina Gamecocks to the tune of 600 yards of total offense, 510 passing yards and 35 points.
But even after a redeeming performance the next week in the ACC Championship against the Pittsburgh Panthers — when the Tigers held the Panthers to 200 total yards, eight yards rushing, 192 yards passing and 10 points — the defense still has a bad taste in its collective mouth.
“Absolutely, we have a bad taste in our mouth,” linebacker Tre Lamar said. “You always remember your bad performances because that is what makes you better. That is how you get better. It is not from your great performances, it is from your worst performances that you learn.”
Lamar was unable to play in the game against the Gamecocks because of injury. However, the linebackers were not the problem against the arm of Jake Bentley — it was the secondary, the cornerbacks and safeties, that bore the most of the blame.
“I think that when you look at that game and you see what happened, a lot of the mistakes were caused by some of us trying to do too much and not trusting each other to do their job,” safety Tanner Muse said. “I mean, we were embarrassed that night and that feeling is not something that you get over in one game — or a few games. That kind of performance stays with you for a while.”
The Tigers will need to have short memories as they prepare for their upcoming game against the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Dec. 29 (4 p.m., ESPN) because they will face a dangerous group of receivers and a dynamic quarterback in Ian Book.
Book is averaging 224.4 yards per game through the air and has thrown 19 touchdowns against just six interceptions in the 11 games in which he has played.
“Ian Book keeps his eyes downfield and extends plays,” ESPN analyst Desmond Howard said. “He is probably one of the more talented quarterbacks that Clemson’s defense has seen the whole year. So this is going to be a great matchup between Notre Dame’s offense against Clemson’s defense.”
However, the Tigers are not only looking forward to facing Book and the Fighting Irish receiving corps, they are hoping Notre Dame tries to throw the ball.
“I hope they throw the ball on us. I hope they try to throw the ball because that is what we want,” safety K’Von Wallace said. “I think that the South Carolina game made some people think we (the secondary are) a weakness, but we know that we can be a weapon. So, yeah, I hope they try to throw the ball as much as they can because then we can show everyone who we really are.”